One hour later
Spike opened his eyes and moaned as he became aware of the unbearable pain coursing through every inch of his body. He looked up into his sire's concerned eyes -- *No. Not concerned. The bastard helped Darla do this to me.* He looked around and realized he'd never made it upstairs to his room. He was lying on the floor in the basement, having passed out shortly after Angelus and Darla had left him.
"Come on. Let's get you to your room," Angelus said, scooping his boy up, wincing in response to his scream of agony.
"Leave me 'lone..." Spike whimpered, just wanting the pain to stop. Hadn't he given Darla what she'd asked for? Didn't he deserve even a few hours of reprieve from the torture?
"Hush," Angelus replied. "I'm only taking you to your bed. You need to rest."
Spike struggled, wanting to be away from his sire. He didn't want to feel those hands, those arms... more than that, he didn't want to *feel*.
"Stop it," Angelus growled. "You're only causing yourself further pain by aggravating your wounds. Stay still and let me help you."
"Help me?!" Spike yelled, his tone screaming disbelief.
Angelus chose not to reply, unwilling to get into this argument. He understood his childe felt he'd betrayed him. But he hadn't. He'd had no choice. It was either let Darla punish him or let Darla destroy him.
William would eventually understand that.
Spike closed his eyes and resisted the sudden urge to just curl up against Angelus' chest, seeking comfort. There was no comfort to be found from his sire, only pain.
That was a lesson he'd never forget.
The thing that made the past day *so* horrible for him was the fact that it had been such a shock. He hadn't thought Angelus could be *that* cruel, *that* uncaring.
That much like his 'father.'
Worse. Because while his father had threatened to force him and his sister out into the streets to whore themselves, to earn their room and board, he'd never actually followed through on that threat. So that meant, as horrible as the man was, he'd still had a sense of decency.
Something Angelus clearly lacked.
Finally, they reached his room. Angelus laid him on the bed and Spike rolled over, wishing him away.
Seeing his boy covered in bruises, cuts and blood was almost more than Angelus could bear. He found himself wanting to kill Darla for what she'd done.
What he'd done.
That was the wost part of all. She wasn't solely to blame. He'd participated. Maybe not willingly, but he'd had a role in it nonetheless.
For the first time in his life, he regretted what he'd done to one of his childer. Even if he hadn't had any other choice, he found himself replaying the moment in which Darla had demanded William's punishment. Each time, he thought of something else that would have kept her from hurting the boy. He could have distracted her with sexual pleasure; he could have persuaded William to pretend to be sorry for the trouble he'd caused. Hell, he could have even sent his boy away, somewhere he would've been safe.
"Will--" he reached out and laid a hand on his childe's shoulder.
"Get the bloody hell away from me," Spike growled, shrugging off the hand and hissing when his body's many injuries screamed in protest at the movement.
"Will, I had to--"
"DON'T!" Spike interrupted him. "You could've stopped this. I begged-- You could've."
"I couldn't, William," Angelus replied. "You were the only one who could have stopped her You chose not--"
"GO AWAY!" Spike screamed, squeezing his eyes shut against the tears which threatened to flow. He just couldn't listen to his sire make this all *his* fault. He hadn't deserved this. Nothing he could have done would ever have deserved this.
Angelus sighed, but accepted that his presence was very much not wanted at the moment. He wouldn't do anything to aggravate his boy further, not when he needed to concentrate on healing. "I'll send Drusilla in to help you clean up," he said as he turned to go.
At the door, he turned back and looked at William. His childe was trembling and he could feel the emotional *and* physical pain, all as if it were his own. "If there had been *any* way to stop her, I would've taken it," he said softly. "You *know* that... I know you do. You may hate me now, but ... Once you feel better, and are thinking more clearly, you'll realize I'm speaking the truth."
He got no reply, and turned to leave. He wouldn't let himself get upset by his boy's anger. William wouldn't hate him forever. He'd come around, it would just take some time.
Just a little time, and everything would be back to normal.
Angelus woke several hours before sunset and frowned as he looked over at Darla, who was curled around his body. His sire, his mate, the one person he had never thought he could *ever* dislike. He'd discovered differently, though. Seeing the extent of her cruelty, aimed at a member of their own *family*... it was more than he could take.
She didn't even seem like the same woman anymore. That insatiable need to hear William's screams, see his blood flow... he hadn't understood it and he doubted he ever would. She had shown far less interest when they'd banished Penn from their family, and *he* had done something so much worse than William ever had. He'd challenged Angelus' place in the clan, in the family. And though he had lost, Darla had no interest in punishing him or making *him* scream and bleed. She hadn't even wanted to destroy him, much to Angelus' shock. No, she'd merely ordered him to disown his childe and order him to not show his face to any member of the clan ever again.
So why the hatred toward William? In contrast to Penn, Will was an angel. Yes he had been a discipline problem, a stubborn, insolent childe, but in his defense he hadn't even been for a year. And he'd been young when Angelus had taken him in, so he was still learning his place in the family.
Darla hadn't seemed to take any of that into account. Or if she had, she hadn't cared.
That was the real issue. She didn't see William as a member of the family, not like Angelus did. From the beginning, she'd had no fondness for him, even though he'd done everything Angelus advised him to try to win her over.
Now that he really thought about it, she hadn't changed her attitude toward Will from the moment he was turned. She hadn't wanted him to make another childe, she'd been convinced from the beginning it was a mistake. She hadn't changed her mind, and she seemed to only find the bad in Will, to back up that opinion.
He sat up, disentangling himself from her and pulled on a pair of slacks as he left the room. His mind wouldn't rest, so there was no hope that he would either. He did want to check on the progress of Will's recovery, anyway.
He entered his boy's room and discovered Drusilla there with Will. She was lying next to him, their fingers intertwined. He was glad she was there, he knew how fond she was of William. She would make sure his injuries were taken care of and would also offer him the comfort he wouldn't accept from anyone else.
He sat in a chair by the window, content to just watch his boy sleep. At least William was still with them, he would heal. If Darla had destroyed him, Angelus would never have forgiven himself for giving her that opportunity.
*He's all right though*, he told himself. *The physical wounds will heal and she *didn't* succeed in destroying his mind or spirit. He'll be back to normal in just a few days.*
He was surprised when William's eyes snapped open and met his. He sensed the fear and remained still, hoping to convey to the boy that he wasn't there to add to his pain. He was surprised when the fearful expression in Will's eyes turned to one of need. He felt hope, in response, that their relationship hadn't been completely destroyed. But Will's entire body froze and his eyes turned cold again, before he squeezed them shut and mouthed a single word. 'No.'
Angelus sighed sadly. He understood his boy's desire to deny his need for him, given what had just transpired. But he would never be able to make that need go away, completely. Will had been made by Angelus, to be his for eternity. He would never feel right as long as he fought against that reality. Angelus had learned the truth of this as would William. He would never be able to leave Darla, just as William would never be able to leave him. The childe was bound to the sire, whether he or she liked it or not. It was best to just accept it as the way things were.
He hoped William would come around to this realization, before he caused himself - both of them - more pain in the long run.
"Will, we're leaving soon to go hunting," Angelus said, as he walked into the boy's room.
Will was sitting up in bed, reading. He didn't look up when Angelus spoke, pointedly ignoring him. This was the norm now. He pretended Angelus didn't exist, unless he was given no choice in the matter. In the mornings, when he'd open his eyes as he was pulled from sleep by the sense of his sire's presence, he'd immediately shut them again and pretend he hadn't seen him. Angelus *wasn't* there. He didn't matter. In the evenings, when Angelus would try to engage him in conversation, he would pretend not to hear him. Nothing he had to say mattered, anyway.
*He* didn't matter.
"Are you in the mood for something in particular for your dinner?" Angelus asked. He was well aware of the game they'd been playing for two days now. He did everything possible to prevent William from ignoring him, in return Will did everything possible to ignore him anyway. It wouldn't go on forever, though.
William had *never* been able to resist him for long. "I seem to recall you have a taste for red-heads, lately," he added, remembering that had been his boy's order to the minions when asked his preference.
"I. Don't. Care," Spike replied, looking up at his sire. His voice feigned indifference though his feelings could be easily read in his eyes. They were cold, hard, unforgiving. This wasn't contempt, nor simply anger. This was hatred, pure and simple. "Besides, why do *you* care what *I* want?" he added. "Never did before." He returned to his book again.
Angelus stepped back in response to the hatred. That had been unexpected. "That's not true," he protested. "I..." He shook his head, he wasn't about to go around defending his actions to one of his childer! "Fine, if you want to pout, then pout. We'll be back later and you'll feed on whatever we return with." With that, he turned and left the room.
Spike felt the ridiculous urge to call after the older vampire and apologize to him, but he suppressed it. He didn't understand why *he* felt guilty. His sire deserved his anger and distrust. He'd raped him too many times to count, whipped him, and worst of all, he'd let Darla do horrible things to him, without once trying to intercede.
So he wouldn't apologize for throwing the fact that Angelus didn't care back in his face. He'd only been speaking the truth.
And if his plan worked, he wouldn't have to worry about any of it much longer. Soon enough it would all be over. He would no longer feel the pain, the anger, the distrust, the sense of betrayal... not even the desire. It would all be gone and he would simply stop feeling.
Angelus, Darla and Drusilla returned from their hunt, several hours later. It had been a rather unenjoyable outing, on all their parts. Drusilla continually worried and fretted about William. Darla snapped at her every time the boy's name was mentioned, which only served to upset Drusilla further. Angelus had tried his best to enjoy himself, but Darla's constant snapping at Dru had made *him* snap at Darla.
He'd gotten a black eye for his trouble, which had improved everyone's moods even more.
Darla wasn't just upset with Angelus for losing his temper with her. The truth was it was *his* mood that had her on edge, but she'd directed her anger at Drusilla because she was the easer one to deal with. But enough was enough. "Snap out of it!" she finally hissed as she threw her coat onto the nearest chair.
Angelus jumped and turned to her. "I'm sorry, my love. Have I done something to annoy you?" He wondered if his polite, affectionate tone sounded as forced and automatic as it was.
"YES!" She screamed, throwing her arms up in a gesture of aggravation. "You're letting that spoiled BOY up there--" she pointed toward William's room --"ruin your mood, which ruins MY mood, which ruins ALL of our fun, because of his SULKING??! WE DIDN'T PUNISH HIM SO HE COULD MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT LATER!!! WE PUNISHED HIM TO CHANGE HIS BEHAVIOR!!"
"Darla, please--" Angelus took her arm and tried to lead her toward the library. She was making a scene in front of the minions and servants and that would only lead to difficulties later.
"GET YOUR DAMN HANDS OFF ME!" She yelled, knocking his hand away. She didn't care if anyone heard her, she was angry, *furious* with Angelus. At this point, humiliating him in front of the servants and minions wasn't something she was worried about. Maybe a bit of humiliation would be good for him. Perhaps it would make him see that if he continued to be so soft toward his brat he would lose *her*.
"I'm sorry," he said, stepping back and lowering his eyes. "I don't wish to upset you. Please, just tell me what I've done wrong."
"WHAT YOU'VE DONE?!" she shrieked. "Don't you KNOW I'm aware that you spend hours in his room, fawning over him? Do you understand how revolting that is to see you, a Master vampire, MY mate, falling all over yourself to get ... what?" she wondered. "Forgiveness? A smile? A kiss?" she sneered. "You're pathetic."
"I am *not* fawning," he replied, trying to repress any evidence of anger. "He has been punished, and apologized--"
"LIES!" She yelled.
"You don't know that." Angelus looked up at her and met her gaze. "He hasn't even recovered enough to hunt, yet. You promised that you'd give him the chance to prove he wasn't lying."
"I already *know* he's lying," she replied. "And when he does prove it, I will destroy him."
He knew she was waiting for his response, but he held his tongue. He feared that if he said anything, he would regret it. He still didn't understand the depth of her hatred for William, or her mistrust toward him in his dealings with the boy.
He was relieved at the interruption and turned to the servant. "Yes, Anna?"
"I'm sorry, Master. Mistress," she looked at Darla fearfully. "I... It's ..."
"Well go on," Darla growled. "You clearly thought it was important enough to disturb us, so I'll hear you out. If it proves *not* to be that important, you'll suffer for it."
"I... Yes Ma'am. I ... It's just Master William--"
Angelus caught Darla's arm before she struck the girl. "Darla, please."
She growled and walked over to a chair, sitting. "Finish the sentence," she ordered Anna. "Master William...?"
"He... he isn't eating," she said, nearly whispered.
"What do you mean? The minions have brought him live humans, and have told me they've carried them out dead. If he's not killing them, then who is?" Angelus asked.
"He snapped their necks," she replied, staring at the floor. "None of them were drained when the others retrieved them. And they... they didn't ... they were afraid to tell you. But I... he's been nice to me and I thought--"
"You did the right thing in telling me," Angelus nodded. "The others will pay for their deception. Go on. I'll take care of it."
"You will NOT," Darla said after the servant had hurried off.
"Don't 'Darla' me, Angelus. This is simply yet *more* proof that he's a lying, conniving little bastard. He's not trying to destroy himself. No, if he wanted *that*, he'd stake himself through the heart and rid us ALL of the melodrama. Instead, he's starving himself. Oh, what a poor, poor boy! He must be so distressed," she mocked. "You. Will. NOT. Give. In." She ordered, punctuating every word with a jab of the finger to his chest. "You will NOT coddle him, you will DEFINITELY not beg him to feed. Let him pout. Let him sulk. Hell, let him destroy himself, if that's his true intent. But you will do nothing to let him think you are sorry. You're NOT sorry, you did nothing wrong. The sooner he understands that, the better it will be for ALL of us."
Angelus stifled a growl in response. "Yes, Darla," he said, possibly for the first time ever, lying to her. He had no intention of obeying her, not when it came to William's health. As soon as he could get away, he *would* do whatever it took to make sure his childe got well and continued to feed.
And even if she discovered that plan, he had *no* intention of letting her stop him.
Spike looked up in surprise as Angelus entered his room, dragging a very frightened young man behind him, whose wrists were bound and mouth was gagged. "What the bloody hell are you doing?" he asked.
"Delivering your dinner," Angelus replied, throwing the human onto William's bed.
"I've already eaten," Spike said, hoping his sire believed him.
"Anna told me otherwise," Angelus said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Later I plan to deal with the other servants' deception. Right now, I'm dealing with yours. Feed, and I'll watch. And I'll watch every other feeding from now on, if I have to. You will not starve yourself."
"You can't STOP me!" Spike yelled, jumping to his feet and clenching his fists against the urge to strike out. It *was* a relief to give up the pretense, though, and let his sire know how ready he was to simply end it all.
"*I* can't," Angelus agreed. "But could Drusilla?"
"You wouldn't," Spike replied, almost begged. He already despised himself for being that weak, to not be able to stay with her and protect her. But he just couldn't. He'd known it would destroy her if she found out he was trying to leave, though. So he had done everything possible to keep her from finding out.
He hadn't counted on the possibility that she would, though. He'd never imagined Angelus would use her against him, *again.*
"Wouldn't I?" Angelus replied, trying not to show how much it hurt him to see the depth of his childe's torment. And he didn't like using Drusilla against the boy, but he would do whatever was necessary to keep Will with them. Even if it drove them further apart temporarily, it was for the long-term good of the entire family.
And William wouldn't stay angry with him forever.
"I hate you!" Spike yelled, surprised to discover he meant it more than he previously realized.
Angelus winced, but quickly hid it. He couldn't let William see how that hurt... Will's survival was all that mattered now. "Perhaps you do," he conceded. "But that doesn't change the facts. You *will* start feeding again, or I will inform Drusilla of your refusal to do so. I don't think she'd be half as calm about it as I am." He turned away so he didn't have to see the tears in Will's eyes.
Spike fought back the tears as he slumped into his chair. He wouldn't ever be allowed to leave this place, especially not his sire. He was trapped. He would never be free to feel anything but pain, ever again. Angelus had seen to that by exploiting even the one *good* thing Spike still had, his love for Drusilla, to suit his own purposes.
Angelus turned back and was pleased to watch William sink his fangs into the jugular vein of the cowering human. When he met Will's eyes, however, he saw the depth of the boy's hatred. He understood that in using Drusilla to blackmail Will, he'd damaged heir relationship even further.
*So be it,* he decided as he turned to go. *At least he's still with us. And as long as he is, there's hope to change his feelings toward me again.*